Big metal beckons at Motown, and Audi weighs in with the Q8 concept, a 5.02 metre-long, 2.04 metre-wide, and 1.70 metre-tall four-seater SUV with a coupe roofline and a plug-in hybrid powertrain under the skin. It previews a low-slung SUV which is set to become the marque’s flagship, sitting above the seven-seater Q7.

At a glance, there an imposing new octagonal Singleframe grille with honeycomb insert and six upright double bars – rather similar to the newer Mercedes-AMG GT models – while a mask with contrasting colour frames the new grille design. The outer air intakes are deep-set, while the bottom edge of the front bumper is highlighted by an aluminium blade.

Key among the features along the Q8 concept’s side are the touch sensors which play the role of door latches – upon detecting hand contact, the door will open to a defined angle. As for its aesthetics, the lines along the bottom edge of the side window, shoulders and sills collectively slant upward towards the rear of the Q8 concept. A flat C-pillar and prominent haunches bring to mind the original Quattro.

At the rear, the roof edge spoiler adds shade to the flat rear window, while the strip of lights stretch across the entire width of the vehicle’s rear as part of an e-tron light signature. The rear light assembly serves as the tail and brake light, as well as the turn indicators. The four outer light elements also reflect certain design cues of the front lights.

“The Q8 concept is an Audi in peak form. It demonstrates the strengths of our brand in both technology and design while providing a glimpse at a future full-size, production SUV. With its next-generation display and control solutions, we are enabling customers to experience connectivity in a whole new way,” said Dietmar Voggenreiter, member of the board of management for sales and marketing.

Inside, the Q8 concept “offers opulent spaciousness for four persons and their large suitcases”, according to Audi; the luggage compartment holds 630 litres. Sharp creases lines and a floating centre console give the cabin an added sense of width, while the shift-by-wire lever controls the eight-speed automatic transmission electronically.

The instrument panel, like much of the Q8 concept’s interior, is distinctly horizontal, and the central control and display surfaces are integrated into a wide “black panel”, which disappears when the systems are switched off. The main instrument display is a 12.3 inch TFT unit with 1920 x 720 resolution, with multiple modes switchable via buttons on the steering wheel.

All other displays within the Q8 concept are touch screens, which enabled designers reduce the number of buttons, switches and levers for even neater and cleaner look, says Audi. As before, the MMI monitor controls infotainment and vehicular settings, while in keeping with the the design theme, the climate control display is in the diagonal part of the centre console.

If a passenger is detected in the front seat, the touchscreen will display climate control settings for the passenger; otherwise, this is concealed when the driver is travelling alone, while another touchscreen takes care of lighting functions.

The Q8 concept’s motive power comes courtesy of a 3.0 lite TFSI petrol engine with 333 hp and 500 Nm of torque, mated to an electric motor producing 136 hp and 330 Nm of torque. Combined, the Q8 concept’s total system output is 448 hp and 700 Nm of torque, propelling the SUV from 0-100 km/h in 5.4 seconds and to a top speed of 250 km/h.

A lithium-ion battery with 104 prismatic cells provide power for the electric drive, with a capacity of 17.9 kWh. Pure electric range is up to 60 km, and combined with the internal combustion engine the Q8 concept’s total range is 1,000 km. A 7.2 kW output will provide the plug-in hybrid with a full charge in about 2.5 hours.

As with other plug-in hybrids, the Q8 concept offers a range of driving modes. EV aims to use just electricity as much as possible, hybrid mode is the middle ground where the systems decide which power source to draw from, and battery hold mode saves electricity for later use.